31 July 2009

Crème desserts: Butterscotch Pudding

In English here.
De temps en temps dans la vie, on affirme quelque chose, tout en sachant que l'on ne devrait pas, que l'on va regretter, mais on le fait quand même. C'était le cas il y a quelques semaines quand, en regardant D. manger un crème dessert du supermarché, j'ai dit "ce serait facile à faire à la maison." Puis, pour rendre les choses pires, j'ai ajouté "et puis ce serait meilleur, et sans conservateurs !" (C'est ça, bien joué.) Et c'est comme ça que j'ai passé toute la semaine dernière à tester différents pots de crème et puddings américains.

N'ayant pas beaucoup d'expérience dans ce domaine, j'ai consulté les recettes basiques du Joy of Cooking, un des livres de cuisine les plus connus aux Etats-Unis, dont la première édition est parue en 1931. Pesant presque 2 kilos, il a été révisé plusieurs fois pour mieux représenter la cuisine contemporaine (il y a quelques décennies, on pouvait y lire comment écorcher un écureuil - de plusieurs façons ! - mais je m'égare...).

La première recette que j'ai testée, et ma préférée jusqu'ici, est le Butterscotch Pudding, une crème dessert au butterscotch (le butterscotch a un goût un peu comme le caramel, mais il est fait avec du sucre brun et du beurre au lieu du sucre blanc cuit en sirop). Peut-être je devrais mentionner qu'en Grande Bretagne, si vous demandez un pudding, vous aurez un gâteau, alors qu'aux Etats-Unis, on vous donnera un flan. En GB, demandez plutôt un custard. Voilà, maintenant vous pouvez en manger au cours de tous vos voyages anglophones sans problème.

Vu ici avec un pot de crème à la vanille - recette plus délicate à réaliser et pas aussi bonne !

Buttercotch Pudding

45g de beurre
120g de sucre brun
12cl de crème entière
35cl de lait entier
1/4 c.c. de sel (ou une bonne pincée de gros sel)
3 c.s. de maïzena
3 c.s. d'eau
1 c.c. d'arôme de vanille
1 c.c. de whisky ou scotch (faculatif)

Dans une casserole, faire fondre le beurre à feu doux et ajouter le sucre brun. Cuire en remuant quelques minutes jusqu'à ce que le sucre ait fondu et que des petites bulles apparaissent.

Verser petit à petit la crème entière en mélangeant, jusqu'à ce que le caramel soit bien fondu. Ajouter le lait entier et sel. Remuer pour obtenir un mélange homogène. Enlever la casserole du feu et laisser reposer jusqu'à ce que le mélange soit à peine tiède.

Bien mélanger la maïzena et l'eau dans un verre, puis ajouter à la casserole. Remettre sur le feu et amener à ébullition en remuant constamment. Le mélange devrait commencer à s'épaissir quand il boue. Baisser le feu et cuire une minute à feu doux.

Eteindre le feu et ajouter la vanille (et le whisky si vous en utilisez). Verser dans 6 petits pots (de yaourts ou crèmes) et couvrir chacun avec du paper aluminum. Mettre au frigo au moins 2 heures avant de servir.

Pots de Creme and Butterscotch Pudding

En français ici.
Sometimes I say silly things, things I know I shouldn't, but I say them anyway. And whatever they tell you, there are some things you can't take back. For example, one day, when D. was eating a store bought dessert pudding thing (the kind that exist in rows and rows in French supermarkets), I made one such remark: "That would be easy to make." To make things worse, I followed it up with "and mine would be yummier, and have no preservatives."

[Quick American vocab break: Just for info, when I say 'pudding' I'm talking about a creamy dessert that comes in a little cup and is quivery - like custard, although I tend to think that when Americans say 'pudding', it's softer than custard. Is that my imagination? Does any one else have thoughts on the subject?]

So back to the part where I've spent the past week and half making nothing but puddings and custards to live up to my boasts. Not having much experience in that domain, I've been playing with basic recipes from Joy of Cooking, my go to book for this kind of thing. What can I say, I have a traditional streak. My first attempt was the best so far: butterscotch pudding, made with real butter and dark brown sugar and having a scrumptious taste close to a salty dulce de leche. I'm not a big pudding person, but I LOVE caramel and can't get enough of these.

Butterscotch Pudding
For 6 people

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk
Heaping 1/4 tsp salt or a nice pinch of coarse sea salt

3 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp scotch or whisky (totally optional - it's delicious without it, but some hold that butterscotch should have some - other's say butter will do it. I leave it up to you.)

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter on low heat and whisk in the dark brown sugar. Cook stirring constantly until well-blended and bubbly (the bubbles will be tiny). Add the heavy cream little by little, while stirring, until butterscotch has melted. Add the milk and salt and stir until well-blended. Remove from heat and let cool until barely lukewarm.

In a small cup, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to the butterscotch mixture and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low (the mixture should be bubbling), and simmer 1 minute, whisking vigourously.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla (and scotch/whisky if using). Pour into 6 small cups and press saran wrap or aluminum foil on top if you want to keep a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Ok, so we're not talking diet food. We're talking sinfully yummy. And frighteningly easy to make.

The second recipe I tried, Vanilla Pots de Crème (a custard, not a pudding) was a bit more delicate. I've made numerous versions of my Chocolate Pots de Crèmes (with orange, with tea, with lavendar), which are much simpler. The vanilla ones have to be baked in a bain de marie, which I was worried about messing up, never having done it before. I didn't dare play much with this recipe, BUT they came out perfectly! Beginner's luck. They're a bit like a crème brûlée, but without the brûlée - actually, I guess that's exactly what they are.

Vanilla Pots de Crème
For 4 people

Preheat oven to 325F/170C
Whisk together:
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar

In a small saucepan, stirring, heat to a simmer:
1 cup whole milk

Gradually whisk the milk into the egg yolk and sugar. Strain into a bowl and skim off any foam. Stir in:
1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour into 4 pudding cups or ramekins. Cover with lids or aluminum foil to keep a skin from forming. Arrange in a baking dish large enough to hold all the cups without them touching. Put the pan in the oven and immediatly pour hot water (the hottest the tap will go is good) into the pan until it comes 2/3 of the way up of the sides of the cups. Bake about 40 minutes, until custard is set but still quivery when shaken. Take out of water bath and let cool 30 minutes. Refridgerate at least 2 hours before serving.

They're delicious, but luckily more complicated to make (means I'll make them less often), and missing some caramel in my humble opinion...

24 July 2009

Lemon and Cheese

After a rather slow start and some bad timing, I have finally gotten in touch with my adoptee in Dine and Dish's Adopt a Blogger #3. I had such a wonderful experience being adopted in the last round that I wanted to try my hand at being a mentor. I was lucky enough to be paired with Nic from Lemon and Cheese who, despite being a newbie, already has a blog full of delicious recipes and balanced weekly meal plans. You can find a number of different types of cuisine, recipes for everyday and some for more special occasions (click on the pictures below for their entries). Aside from cooking, Nic and I also share a passion for books. She works in a library surrounded by them! How cool is that? But I'll let her say more. We've prepared a little interview for you so that you can get a little glimpse behind the scenes of Lemon and Cheese.

potato gratin

Me: What made you want to start blogging about food? What’s challenging/fun about blogging?

Nic: I loved looking at all the pictures on foodgawker and tastespotting etc and thought hey I could do that, I love to cook and I had just got my first digital camera for my birthday. So I thought I’d have a go, my photography is still not very good, although I hope I’m improving! That’s probably my biggest challenge, that, and actually finding time to sit down and write! I love it because it means I have a store of recipes I’ve tried and I can see what works and what doesn’t. I also love the sense of community about the food bloggers, I have received help from a variety of people and I love doing Presto Pasta Nights which I regularly contribute to.

Do you like to eat out? What is your favorite restaurant?

I love to eat out, I love meeting up with my friends for a good meal, there’s nothing better. I just wish I had more money to do it more often! My Dad takes me out occasionally so I get to try some of the more upmarket restaurants which I love. We recently went to Sheekey’s near Leicester Square and had the most delicious oysters. But my favourite restaurant at the moment is Yo! Sushi. It’s a chain of sushi restaurants in the UK, which are really good, and you can watch the chefs at work whilst you eat. A friend of mine has recently discovered sushi so we go there a lot. The dumpling noodle soup is really tasty.

grilled lemon chicken kebabs

Do any of your parents or grandparents cook or did someone particular inspire you?

My Mum is a brilliant cook, she made all sorts of treats when we were kids and I remember being quite small and helping her to make jam tarts and scones, and we always got to lick out the bowls! We very rarely had ready meals, she cooked everything pretty much from scratch every night, and I didn’t have a takeaway until I was at University! At the age of 21 I also went on a four week basic skills cookery course at Leiths School of Cookery in London. I learnt everything from knife skills to making bread and pasta, and that really gave me the confidence to start trying different recipes and cuisines rather than just cooking the same five meals, as I had done at University!

Do you have a favorite dish (for the moment anyway)?

My favourite dish currently is anything with noodles; I am working my way through the Wagamama’s Ways with Noodles cookbook, and have had some very tasty dishes from it. However my all time favourite will always be my Mum’s roast chicken with roast potatoes, parsnips, bread sauce, a couple of other veg and her gravy, for me that’s the taste of my childhood, and it’s the meal my sister always requests when she goes home for the weekend.

What is your favorite kind of food?

My favourite kind of food at the moment is Japanese or Chinese; in fact anything oriental! I love the mixture of sweet and sour and the simplicity of the cooking although the tastes are complex. I still have to overcome my fear of deep fat frying, but hopefully soon I will be making tempura and breaded chicken, similar to the dishes I get in restaurants. There is also a very good Chinese restaurant not far from my parent’s house, which I love to eat at called Mr Pangs. They do the best five spice prawns I have ever tasted.

squid ink pasta with old bay seasoned prawns and scallops

Have you eaten in another country?

I have eaten in a few different countries, but I have a couple of memories which stick out. I went on a trip to New York earlier this year and we had a couple of meals and snacks in Grand Central Station. We kept gravitating back there as it was warm and outside was freezing! Anyway we ate at Juniors one day and I had the red velvet cheesecake for pudding and got the biggest slice of cake I have ever seen, but it was so delicious and the cream cheese frosting was to die for.

My family spent most of my childhood holidays in different parts of France. So I remember having some of the most delicious food from a very young age. I have been told that at the age of about 2-3 I used to sit at the dinner table and demand more bear please Mummy, my word for Camembert, as I could not pronounce the whole word! I also remember my parents eating 7 course meals and loving the sorbet that typically came half way through the meal!

What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?

The strangest food, hmmm, I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food, I’ll try anything once, except possibly tripe, just the idea turns my stomach. I have had the usual French suspects such as frogs legs and escargot, which I love, I brought a tin home with me when I was last in France and cooked them myself. Steak Tartare was one of the things I was most reluctant to try, but I had it in France last year and it was delicious.

What type of food can’t you stand?

I hate mince. I can just about eat it, but I can’t eat anymore than half a plate of it, so spaghetti bolognaise, moussaka, cottage pie etc are completely out. I think it stems back to my grandmother who used to serve us boiled mince and veg when we were small that was revolting. I really don’t like the texture of it at all.

spinach and cream cheese chicken wrapped in parma ham

Do you have any passions besides cooking?

I love to read, I read mostly fiction, with a smattering of biographies, and travel writing. I always have a book in my handbag and I work in a library, so I have fantastic access to books. I seem to get through about 1 ½ books a week, and I’m a member of a community of livejournal which challenges people to read 50 books in a year, I’m up to 44 this year so I’m hoping for 100! I also love to do tapestry and I’ve just learnt to knit, so I’m knitting a cardigan for myself, very slowly!

What made you want to do adopt-a-blogger?

I was hoping to be in the last round of adopt-a-blogger but just missed out, so I waited patiently for the next round to arrive! I wanted to do it because there are so many bloggers out there with a wealth of knowledge that I could learn from. I think the mentoring idea is a really good way for someone with a lot more experience than me to help guide me on my way.

21 July 2009

St Benoit du Sault

Maison où on était logé / House where we stayed

Après un stage de deux semaines dans un des 100 plus beaux villages de France, je suis enfin de retour ! J'ai passé toute la journée d'hier à dormir et à essayer de faire le tri de la petite centaine d'emails qui se trouvait dans ma boîte. Pour les blogs, il faut me laisser encore quelques jours, mais j'ai hâte de me remettre à vous lire.

Well, after a two week theater program in the center of France in one of its 100 most beautiful villages, I'm finally back in Paris. I spent pretty much all day yesterday sleeping and trying to wade through the 100 or so emails in my inbox. As for actually catching up on my correspondence and blog reading, you'll have to give me another few days, but I'm looking forward to seeing what you've all cooked up in my absence.

Vue du parc derrière notre logement / View from the park behind our house

Qu'est-ce que j'ai pu faire pendant tout ce temps sans internet, vous demandez-vous ? Eh bien, avec le groupe du stage (que je ne connaissais pas avant d'arriver), nous avons monté un apéro cabaret, une parade pour le 14 juillet, et deux spectacles en deux semaines. C'était intense, mais très intéressant. J'ai peu dormi, mais j'ai beaucoup appris ; j'ai fait de belles rencontres, et j'ai retrouvé mon rire - mon vrai, qui est beaucoup trop fort et qui fait tourner les têtes des gens autour :-) Dans les deux spectacles, j'ai chanté I Love Rock and Roll de Joan Jett et joué du Courteline - des vrais numéros de clown avec des rires, des pleurs, des baffes, et une grande carafe d'eau balancée sur ma tête !

So, you ask, what did you do for all that time with NO internet? Well, I can safely say I was much too busy to miss it. With the other actors in the program (none of whom I knew before going), we put together a barbecue/concert, a parade through town on Bastille Day, and two theater shows in two weeks. It was quite an intense but rewarding experience. I did not sleep much, but I learned a lot, and met a wonderful group of people. In both final shows, I sang I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett and acted in a short play by Courteline (in two different roles); the play was some serious clown work with hysterical laughs, tears, and slapstick humor, which involved me getting an entire pitcher of water dumped on my head (funny during the show, less so during rehearsals that took place outdoors sometimes until 1 or 2am)!

Notre estrade, place de l'Eglise / Our stage behind the village church

Tout ce qui me manquait (à part D. bien sûr) était de la nourriture digne de ce nom. Nous étions hébergés et nourris par la mairie locale, mais tout ce qu'on mangeait sortait de boîtes de conserves. Quand je suis rentrée, D. m'a fait du poulet rôti aux patates et je n'ai jamais étais aussi heureuse de manger ! J'ai hâte de me remettre à cuisiner avec des produits frais.

All the experience was missing was some decent food. We were lodged and fed by the town hall and everything we ate was ready-packaged or came out of a tin - yuck! When I got back, D. made me roast chicken with potatoes and I think I've never tasted something so yummy. I can't wait to get back to cooking with fresh vegetables.

04 July 2009

Pizza au pesto sur une baguette

In English here.

Tout d'abord, je veux vous dire que je vais être en stage intensif à partir de demain dans un petit village de la Creuse, et je ne serais donc pas présente sur la blogosphère pendant deux semaines. (Deux semaines sans internet ?? Il faut vraiment aimer son métier...) Donc, si je ne poste pas et ne lis pas vos blogs, c'est normal ; je suis en train de jouer la comédie à la campagne !

Avant de partir je vous laisse cette recette, parfaite pour les premières tomates et ce basilic donc l'arôme me séduit à chaque fois que je fais les courses. C'est une recette qui me rappelle mon enfance, quand ma mère nous faisait des French bread pizzas. Je les aimais beaucoup et maintenant que je vois comme c'est simple à faire, je me dis que ma mère devait aussi aimer les préparer.

En plus, c'est très versatile. Selon son humeur, on peut mettre la garniture que l'on veut, et chaque personne peut personaliser la sienne. Récemment, j'en ai fait avec des tomates cerises, des dés de jambon, des poivrons rôtis - c'était très bon !

Pour 3 personnes

1 baguette

12 c.s. de pesto

garniture : tomates cerises, poivron rôti, dés de jambon, etc.

fromages : râpé, feta, roquefort (j'aime bien faire un mélange)


Diviser la baguette en trois et ouvrir chaque partie en deux dans le sens de la longueur. Sur chaque côté, napper 2 c.s. de pesto. Mettre les garnitures de votre choix et saupoudrer généreusement de fromage. Poivrer et mettre dans un four très chaud quelques minutes jusqu'à ce que le fromage fonde.

Pesto Pizza on French Bread

En français ici.

First of all, a quick announcement to say that I'll be away for two weeks, starting Sunday, at an intensive acting program in a tiny town (160 inhabitants) in the center of France. I'll be taking a break from blogging during that time, but don't worry, I'll be back! I won't have internet while I'm there, so if I don't comment on your blogs for a while, I hope you'll forgive me; I'll be busy performing comedy and vaudeville!

Before I go, though, I'd like to leave you with this comforting and versatile recipe. I say comforting because for me French bread pizza (or pizza on a bagel) was one of those childhood meals to look forward to. Now when I realize how easy it was to make, I think it must've been one for my parents to look forward to too :-) You can do pretty much anything with these. I've made a couple pesto versions recently: with ham, with cherry tomatoes, with roasted peppers, all delicious.

For 3 people

1 baguette
12 Tbsp pesto (for the basic recipe, Joy of Cooking has a good one, but there are plenty of variations!)
Toppings : cherry tomatoes, ham, roasted peppers, etc.
Cheeses : I used a mix of emmenthal (grated), feta and blue cheese

Cut the baguette into thirds and slice each third in half to open it up. Spread about 2 Tbsp of pesto on each side. Lay on toppings and sprinkle with the cheeses of your choice. Put on a cookie sheet in the broiler (or in oven on broiler setting) for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.